By Pauline Kerr
The official ground-breaking ceremony for the Southern Bruce Natural Gas Distribution Project marked the successful completion of one part of the project – getting approvals and agreements in place and the project going, and the start of the next phase – construction.
The ground-breaking took place near the intersection of Bruce Road 20 and Sideroad 30, just east of Tiverton, on Tuesday, July 30. On hand for the ceremony were Stuart Lee, Epcor president and CEO; Lisa Thompson, MPP Huron-Bruce and government and consumer services minister; and the mayors of the three member municipalities – Mitch Twolan of Huron-Kinloss, Anne Eadie of Kincardine, and Steve Hammell of Arran-Elderslie. Also present were several members of the respective councils both past and present, as well as Epcor representatives and their project partners Aecon Utilities and Stantec Consulting Ltd.
Susannah Robinson, Epcor vice-president for Ontario, served as MC. Her statement, that the project has been a long time coming has finally reached this stage, thanks to the mayors of the three municipalities and the provincial government working together, was echoed repeatedly throughout the ceremony.
Lee, who travelled from Edmonton for the event, commented that since he took over as CEO in 2015, “the first project to be approved is this one.” He said how gratifying it was to “finally see shovels in the ground,” something that couldn’t have happened without the support of the mayors of the member municipalities. “We couldn’t have asked for better partners,” Lee said.
To Thompson, he said, “Your unwavering support made a real difference.”
He assured the municipal leaders, “We’re here for the long term. This is an essential utility that will serve the communities for decades and decades.”
In a later interview, Lee noted that natural gas is an essential service that’s going to make a real difference to the community. “It’s going to be good for businesses and residents.”
Thompson, who came to the event despite it being vacation time, said, “It’s a pleasure to be here for the official sod turning … it’s my way of tipping my hat to the three local municipalities who did not give up. Thank you for never giving up … rural Ontario matters.”
She spoke on how good it was to see work going on in the ditches on her way to the sod turning, adding, “We need to be turning on all cylinders.”
Thompson concluded by saying, “We finally got here!”
Twolan looked at the piles of pipe on the property and the shiny new shovels ready for the official ceremony, and quipped, “Who’d a thunk it? … Here we are.”
He thanked his municipal counterparts and others who played instrumental roles in bringing the project to this point.
Eadie said, “When I was coming up the road today, I actually had a tear in my eye.” She welcomed all those present to Kincardine, and added, “I’ve been dreaming of this day.”
Eadie spoke of how the mayors of Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss and Arran-Elderslie met every two weeks to get and keep the project on track – three separate councils over three terms. “We came together as a unit to make our vision a reality … it’s a textbook case for collaboration and co-operation.”
She made special mention of Paul Eagleson and Larry Kraemer, the CAOs and staff, consultant Mark Rodger, and Thompson. She said to the MPP, “You promised us it would happen and it did happen.”
To Epcor, Eadie said, “Thank you for your patience and expertise,” and concluded with, “Our journey is complete, now we celebrate!”
Hammell, who has served on council for nine years, commented that part of Arran-Elderslie (Tara) has had natural gas for years, and it’s been good to be able to tell the rest of the municipality, “We’re going to save you a lot of money shortly.” That time has arrived.
In thanking all those who worked so hard to make the project happen, he said to Epcor representatives, “It’s great to partner with a company with a vision.”